U.S. President Barack Obama signed the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Air Transportation Modernization and Reform Act (H.R. 658) into law Feb. 14, extending through September 2015 a regulatory grace period for firms vying to launch paying passengers into suborbital space.
Congress acted in 2004 to limit for eight years the FAA’s authority to impose passenger and crew safety rules on the likes of Virgin Galactic and other aspiring commercial human spaceflight operators. One purpose of the partial moratorium, which would have expired in December, was to give operators the chance to start flying without being weighed down by regulations. Another purpose was to allow operators to establish a base of safety-related best practices that the FAA can eventually convert into regulations.